The Eskimo Myth |

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“Considering the dismal health status of Eskimos, it is remarkable that instead of labelling their diet as dangerous to health,” they just accepted and echoed the myth, and tried to come up with a reason to explain the false premise. The Eskimo had such dismal health that the Westernization of their diets actually lowered their rates of ischemic heart disease. You know your diet’s bad when the arrival of Twinkies improves your health.

So, why do so many researchers to this day unquestioningly parrot the myth? “Publications still referring to Bang and Dyerberg’s nutritional studies as proof that Eskimos have low prevalence of [heart disease] represent either misinterpretation of the original findings or an example of confirmation bias,” which is when people cherry-pick or slant information to confirm their preconceived notions. As the great scientist Francis Bacon put it: “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” So, we get literally thousands of articles on the alleged benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a billion-dollar industry selling fish oil capsules, and millions of Americans taking the stuff—all based on a hypothesis that was questionable from the very beginning.

What’s this about no benefit for fish oil consumption and heart disease? See my video Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?.

What about fish oil for mood disorders? See Fish Consumption and Suicide. Is Fish “Brain Food” for Older Adults? Should Vegans Take DHA to Preserve Brain Function? Consumption of long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA) may be useful for forming and maintaining brain health, but there’s a struggle between Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development when coming from fish or fish oil, thanks to how polluted our oceans have become. In fact, this is the case even in “distilled” fish oil; see Fish Oil in Troubled Waters for more. The marine pollutants may explain the relationship between Fish and Diabetes and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease): Fishing for Answers. Thankfully, there are now pollutant-free (yeast- and microalgae-derived) sources.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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